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In this insurance coverage dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court ruling in favor of Doswell Truck Stop, LLC (DTS) on DTS's declaratory judgment action against James River Insurance Company and entered final judgment declaring that an auto exclusion precluded coverage of James Smith's injuries under the policy at issue, holding that the trial court erred in ruling in favor of DTS. Smith filed a personal injury lawsuit against DTS for injuries he allegedly suffered as a result of a tire explosion that occurred when DTS was repairing a tire on Smith's tractor-trailer. DTS filed an insurance claim with James River, which had issued a commercial general liability policy to DTS. James River denied coverage on the basis that DTS's claim was precluded by the auto exclusion. DTS then filed this action seeking a determination of whether the policy covered Smith's injury. The circuit court ruled in favor of DTS. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred determining that the auto exclusion was ambiguous with respect to the meaning of "maintenance" of an auto; and (2) the circuit court erred in ruling that an independent basis existed for coverage under the policy. View "James River Insurance Co. v. Doswell Truck Stop, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed and vacated the decisions of the court of appeals reversing Defendant's conviction for criminal solicitation of a sixteen-year-old female high school student (A.L.) using a communications system in violation of Va. Code 18.2-374.3(D) and entered final judgment reinstating Defendant's conviction, holding that the court of appeals erred in reversing and vacating Defendant's conviction. At issue on appeal was whether the evidence was sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant's communications with A.L., when viewed in the overall context of his relationship with A.L., constituted a violation of section 18.2-374.3(D). The Supreme Court concluded that it was, holding that the court of appeals erred in finding that the evidence adduced at trial, and the reasonable inferences that the fact-finder could draw therefrom, was insufficient to support Defendant's conviction for violating section 18.2-374.3(D). View "Commonwealth v. Murgia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court refusing to set aside Defendant's guilty plea, holding that the court of appeals did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion to withdraw her guilty plea. Defendant pled guilty to petit larceny. Before the circuit court entered the final sentencing order, Defendant filed a motion to withdraw her guilty plea. The circuit court denied the motion and entered the final sentencing order. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the "manifest injustice" standard governs a motion to withdraw a guilty plea made after sentence was pronounced but before the sentencing order was entered; and (2) the grounds Defendant advanced to withdraw her guilty plea did not warrant vacating the guilty plea under the post-sentencing "manifest injustice" standard. View "Brown v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in refusing to declare a party a subsurety to a loan obligation, concluding that a purchase option contract was enforceable, and declining to explain the meaning of its final order upon request of a party, holding that the circuit court did not err. On appeal, Appellant argued that the circuit court erred in refusing to declare her a subsurety and that the circuit court failed to cite authority or make findings of fact to support its decision regarding the enforceability of the option. Appellant also argued that the circuit court erred in refusing to clarify in its final orders that it was not ruling on Appellant's potential future contribution claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) did not abuse its discretion in refusing to declare Appellant a subsurety; (2) was within its discretion to award specific performance of the terms of the option; and (3) did not err in declining to clarify its final orders regarding its effect on a future contribution claim. View "Callison v. Glick" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court holding that the juvenile and domestic relations district court (JDR court) had no jurisdiction to modify an award of child support, holding that the JDR court had jurisdiction to enter the order. After Spear and Nawara Omary were divorced by an order of the circuit court. Later, thee Department of Social Services, Division of Child Support Enforcement filed a motion in the JDR court to modify the child support order. The JDR granted the motion. Omary appealed, arguing that the JDR court did not have jurisdiction to enter the order. The circuit court agreed and vacated the order. Spear appealed, arguing that the JDR court did have jurisdiction because he had previously withdrawn an appeal from the JDR court to the circuit court, and therefore, remand happened automatically by operation of law. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Va. Code 16.1-106.1(F), by operation of law, effects an automatic remand whenever a circuit court enters an order noting the appellant's withdrawal of an appeal from the JDR court; and (2) therefore, the circuit court, not the JDR court, had jurisdiction to modify the child support order. View "Spear v. Omary" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding Appellant's conviction for failure to register as a sexually violent sex offender, holding that Appellant was properly classified as a sexually violent offender and convicted for failing to register within the relevant statutory ninety-day period. In 2004, Appellant was convicted in Idaho of sexual abuse of a child under the age of sixteen and ordered to register as a sex offender with the State of Idaho. In 2016, Appellant moved to Virginia and registered as a sex offender. Appellant was later convicted for failing to reregister as a sexually violent offender. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under Va. Code 9.1-902(F)(ii), Appellant was required to register as a sexually violent offender in Virginia. View "Turner v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court accepted certification of a question of law in a proceeding pending before the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut and answered that Virginia law recognizes that the collateral source rule can apply to breach of contract cases. Specifically at issue was whether Virginia law applies the collateral source rule to a breach of contract action where the plaintiff has been reimbursed by an insurer for the full amount it seeks in damages from the defendant. The Supreme Court answered that the same rationales supporting the recognition of the collateral source rule in tort cases also supports the rule's application in certain breach of contract actions. The Court further explained that whether the rule applies to a given case requires a case by case analysis as to whether the parties' expectations, in light of those rationales, support the rule's application. View "Dominion Resources, Inc. v. Alstom Power, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed Petitioner's petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that the petition was untimely under Va. Code 8.01-654(A)(2). In 1970, Petitioner was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Petitioner was subsequently resentenced to life imprisonment. In 2016, Petitioner filed the present petition for a writ of habeas corpus, asserting that new evidence exculpated him. While acknowledging that his petition was untimely, Petitioner argued that the limitation period violated the Suspension Clause of Va. Const. Art. I, 9. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) Petitioner's petition was time barred; and (2) Petitioner's inability to question and present new evidence bearing on his factual guilt or innocence did not violate the Suspension Clause. View "Brown v. Warden" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction of voluntary manslaughter, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it permitted the admission of Defendant's statement, "It's my second one," which was made to a witness immediately following the shooting of the victim. The court of appeals held that any error in admitting evidence of the statement was harmless because Defendant had a fair trial on the merits and that substantial justice was reached. The Supreme Court held that because Defendant failed to assign error to the appellate court's holding that any error was harmless, the court of appeals judgment is affirmed. View "Rankin v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction after the trial court had denied Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that the exclusionary rule did not apply under the facts of this case. Defendant was convicted of stolen property. At issue on appeal was whether the trial court should have excluded evidence obtained by police officers during a warrantless search of a motorcycle parked on a private residential driveway. The case made its way to the United States Supreme Court, which held that the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment does not permit a police officer to enter the curtilage of a home without a warrant in order to search a vehicle parked on that curtilage. The Supreme Court left for resolution on remand whether the warrantless intrusion on Defendant's house may have been reasonable on a different basis. On remand, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied because, at the time of the search, a reasonably well-trained police officer would not have known that the automobile exception did not permit him to search a motorcycle located a few feet across the curtilage boundary of a private driveway. View "Collins v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law